By Olga Pena
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Like a fairytale teacher cut from the pages of a children's storybook, Gail Milligan is soft-spoken, eager to share encouraging words and is always smiling.
Milligan, Copperas Cove Independent School District assistant superintendent of curriculum and student services, has been in education for 35 years.
"I always wanted to be a teacher. I thought teaching was the most honorable profession and the noblest thing to be able to do," Milligan said. "When you know you've touched a child, there is no greater feeling."
Milligan, who has been at the CCISD since 1973, said she has experienced so many rewarding moments in teaching that one day she'll write a book about it.
She has taught in several different positions in Alabama and Texas with a focus on English and history.
The Alabama native also has served in several education administrative roles, including principal of Copperas Cove Junior High and Copperas Cove High School.
"Mrs. Milligan is dedicated to doing what is best for the students of the CCISD," said CCISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rose Cameron. "She has spent her entire career making a difference in the lives of students, fellow educators and the community."
Having taught at an Alabama school during its first year of integration, Milligan gained a love for cultural diversity and created a "minority culture class," for CCHS.
Although she has collected a slew of awards, distinctions, diplomas and degrees, Milligan said the most rewarding teaching moments are watching students walk down to finally clutch their diplomas.
"I think it's so special to see them grow up," Milligan said. "I think teaching is a calling."
Vividly describing her childhood home where she and her brother had a "parent connection," Milligan said her mother was a stay-at-home wife who taught them to read.
Milligan's mom encouraged journal writing, a habit the school administrator still practices today.
From penning her thoughts in a journal and keeping record of God's miracles in her prayer book, to poetry and story writing, Milligan is an avid reader and writer.
"I write for myself and for my grandchildren," said the mother of six, whose many bedtime stories are spun from her active imagination.
But not all of Milligan's stories have been fairy tales. Last year, Milligan faced a great challenge – recovering from a heart attack.
Milligan said she now feels God has given her a gift she is fighting to protect.
Cutting down her page-long list of volunteer and community-centered activities, Milligan is focusing on her family.
"I get through because I want to see my grandchildren grow," Milligan said. "You focus on that, put your faith in God and take your medicine."
Milligan blushes at compliments about her grace, poise and peaceful personality but credits God, her family and co-workers with her internal serenity.
A member of First Baptist Church in Copperas Cove, where she played piano and organ, Milligan said being a military wife took her to many different places, but she knows it's God's will to have stayed in Cove for good.
"I've always felt in my life that I've been where God put me," Milligan said. "That's my prayer every day that I'm doing God's will."
Though she has six very successful children, including Cove City Manager Steve Alexander, Milligan is most proud of her children being great parents.
Though she is still reducing her hectic schedule while recuperating, the former Exchange Club president is still active in the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Committee, Military Child Education Coalition and several educational organizations.
"I want to be used, thoroughly used up, when I die. I want to serve the best way that I can," Milligan said. I have a good role model in my mother. She is 82 and is a phenomenal lady."
At the end of the day Milligan holds no regrets for having stayed in one profession committed to her greatest passion – children.
"You have to take care of your children, educate your children, and not just the children of your birth, all of them. That would take care of our world," Milligan said. "That's why I'm here."
Contact Olga Peña at firstname.lastname@example.org